Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wild Walking in the Winds--Part One

We've been home for a week or two now, so I guess it's time I got going on a bit of a trip report from our family 7-day backpacking vacation in Wyoming's Wind River mountains.

We left our summer acclimatization/so that's what the "sun" is! digs on July 31st, and drove straight through about 6 or so hours to Pinedale, Wyoming, where we stopped long enough to gather some info, then drove on up to New Fork Lakes, to the Narrows campground, in time for dinner.  We even had time to play around a little at the lake in addition to getting all our gear organized and getting to bed early.  We were scheduled to meet some horse packers at 7:30 a.m., to get a little "cheat" on our trip--they would haul our packs up the first 6 miles and 2400'.

Monday morning, Day One, and everything works perfectly.  We are up, fed, and ready to go by 7:30, and the packers are at the TH, ready to take our gear.  As a result, we are one the trail shortly after 8, and in a good position to get our climb done before noon--and before the day heats up.  Our 3.5 weeks in Boulder have helped with the altitude, and even some with learning to deal with heat (something that is not an issue in our coastal home near SF), but we can use any edge we can get.

The trail follows the lake two miles, then turns and climbs persistently through an area that burned in 2008.  Fireweed makes a flower-garden of the burnt forest.

After lunching--and collecting our packs (yes, we really were glad we hadn't carried the full packs the whole distance) we finally topped out and got some views of the high peaks.  In a couple of days, we'll be among those peaks.  It's hard for us to believe--they look so mysterious and far-away.

We finally find a camp with a view of the mountains, and enjoy relaxing through the rest of the afternoon, then getting out in the evening for sunset views.

The sun rises behind the mountains.

Our next day's hike takes us past many beautiful alpine lakes.

We camp near Summit Lake (it's near the top of a pass, not on the summit of anything), and the evening gives us another beautiful light show.
 Our third day saw us climbing (again) through the sub-alpine to regain the alpine.  Already the high peaks are looking a lot closer.  Since we didn't have very accurate or dependable mileage estimates for some of our trails, we were gratified to find that we were making good time toward our goal.

Past more beautiful lakes.  The Winds are lousy with lakes, which does mean mosquitoes, but also lots of great scenery!

Since it was mosquito season, it was also flower season, and we saw a decent selection.  Columbine grew in clumps in some areas.

Pedicularus is another favorite.  Also known as "Elephant Head"--can you see the little trunks?

 Eventually we settled on our highest camp of the trip, atop 11,000' Shannon Pass.  Storms made the mid-afternoon interesting without being threatening, as we sat them out in our tents.

After the storms, we weren't the only ones to come out and look around.  Pikas may be among the cutest animals on earth!

We even climbed around and got some views of where we'd been.  We lunched at the upper end of that lake, and had come into the basin around the knob to the right of the lake.  This was also a major trail junction, and the only place we saw excessive numbers of people.

Even up here, atop a pass, there was abundant water.

Finally, another nice sunset, making us three for three so far.   This takes us to the mid-point of the trip, and makes a nice rest spot. At this point we had hiked for 3 days, and covered between 18 and 25 miles--not huge mileage, but the sort of days we like, with hiking all morning and settling into camp soon after lunch.  We try not to race through the amazing landscape (and we are not so young anymore, except our kids, and don't want to move too far or too fast).  The Winds rewarded our slower pace with many beautiful campsites.
 More to come!

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